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Everyday 'heroes' recognized for life-threatening rescue attempts across US, Canada

Twenty-year-old Joshua W. Steed reacted quickly when he saw his colleague get shot in the office of a Texas apartment complex.

Steed was a college student on Sept. 7, 2011, when a gunman with a .38-caliber revolver repeatedly shot 21-year-old Jacob B. Allen, who had been working at the front desk. Steed threw a chair, stunning the shooter. Steed was able to throw the assailant to the ground, disarming him. Allen was treated for his gunshot wound and survived.

Steed, who recovered with minor bruising from the heroic deed, is just one of 18 Americans and Canadians recognized Wednesday with a Carnegie Medal for saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Like Steed, they all risked their own lives in rescue attempts in drownings, fires and assaults. Four died doing so.

The group of 18 were honored for their "extraordinary acts of civilian heroism" by the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. The latest medals were given out along with a financial grant in the U.S. and Canada; a total of 81 were awarded in 2012.

These 18 recipients all have remarkable stories of courage, but four received this recognition posthumously because they died during their heroic acts:

In June 2011, two young boys were wading in the Cedar River near Mount Vernon, Iowa when they lost their footing and were pulled downstream by a strong current. Jonathan Paul Jones, 41; Kujtime Ajro, 29; Nathan James Marling, 18; and Makeda S. Barkley, 16; all of Iowa, were recognized for helping in the boys' successful rescue. Jones, of Lisbon who had been fishing near the scene, drowned during the rescue, and his body was later recovered from the river. Ajro, Marling, and Barkley survived.

Ricky D. Clinton, 49, tried to save 13-year-old Tyler J. French from a burning home in Mountain Pine, Ark., in September 2011. While the burning house's occupants were exiting, Tyler turned back to get something but was then heard screaming for help. Clinton re-entered the house, but the flames grew and both he and French died of smoke inhalation.

Related: Lives saved by teachers, custodian and even children in Newtown shooting

When a 64-year-old man was struggling in the waters of Lake Erie near Pelee Island, Ontario in August 2010, Cynthia L. Riediger of Calgary, Alberta, was there to help. The 53-year-old geologist, on vacation with her family, got in the water on an inflatable float with the man's wife to attempt a rescue. While the man was saved, Riediger got separated from the float and drowned.

Kenneth J. Stephens Sr., 55, of Dunnellon, Fla., died while attempting to save his niece and sister-in-law from drowning in Florida's Lake Weir in June 2011. While he was able to successfully rescue the 8-year-old niece, Stephens and his sister-in-law soon submerged in the lake and drowned.

The other heroes recognized that survived:

  • Christopher M. Johnson, 20, of Bolingbrook, Ill.
  • Carl Casey Loando, 54, of Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Gary Yurkovic, Jr., 27, of Carteret, N.J.
  • Ione Fletcher Kleven, 64, of Castro Valley, Calif.
  • Thomas Joseph Delgado, 43, of Valley Center, Kan.
  • Joseph C. Page, 36, of Wichita, Kan.
  • John M. Byrd, 49, of Round O, S.C.
  • Mark Samuel Dawson, 37, of Summerville, S.C.
  • Robert Eli Meyer, 28, of Kingston, Mass.
  • Connor Farland Stotts, 17, of Oceanside, Calif.

Related: Heroic Newtown teacher Victoria Soto remembered

Famed industrialist Andrew Carnegie established the fund in 1904, after hearing rescue stories from a deadly mine disaster, The Associated Press reported. More than 9,500 Carnegie awards and $34.8 million have been given out since then.

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